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CGOA Presents Sam Baker and the Gorge Sinfonietta “Chasing Light”

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Sometimes, tragedy and loss can be transmuted into art. That’s certainly true of the songs of Sam Baker. 

Baker has spent a career writing lyrical and intimate songs about his own challenges. But he also writes touching, surprising lyrics about everyday people, their joys and moments of suffering. Just like in 2020, when Sam Baker joined the Gorge Sinfonietta for a program of original songs, he’s partnering with the orchestra again to present a new concert, called “Chasing Light.”


In 1986, Sam was the victim of a terrorist bombing on a passenger train in Machu Picchu. Others in his train compartment were killed, but Sam survived with catastrophic injuries, including brain damage, a cut artery, and blown-in eardrums. Over 17 reconstructive surgeries and years of rehabilitation later, Sam still suffers from tinnitus and had to relearn language and to play guitar left-handed.


The terrorist attack and its emotional and physical aftermath have found their way into Sam Baker’s songs. Haunted imagery of passengers dying and survivor guilt infuse many lyrics. More often than not, though, Baker’s songs express wonder, gratitude, love and hope. While there has been some darkness and pain in Sam Baker’s life, his songs also contain wit and humor.


Since 2004, he has released 6 albums. Baker’s 2013 album, Say Grace, was listed by Rolling Stone as one of the top 10 country music albums of 2013. Baker has been featured on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross. While Baker’s songs have always contained narrative elements, he’s been experimenting with spoken word pieces with musical accompaniment. He’s even in the process of writing a play.


In 2020, Sinfonietta conductor Mark Steighner partnered with Sam Baker and wrote nearly two dozen orchestra arrangements for Sam’s songs. The program was called the “Go in Peace Symphony” after the title of the concluding song.


For the upcoming March concerts, Steighner and Sam Baker will be reprising some favorites from the earlier concert, but the highlight will be a 20 minute suite of spoken word stories and songs. The new concert is called “Chasing Light.” The program also features a live performance of Baker’s “The Tattooed Woman,” which the Sinfonietta recorded during the pandemic as an online-only video.


“Chasing Light” with Sam Baker and the Gorge Sinfonietta will be Friday, March 17 at 7 PM and Sunday, March 19 at 2 PM, in the auditorium of Hood River Middle School, 1602 May St. in Hood River.


Tickets are $30 adults ($20 for CGOA Members), $5 youth ages 10-17, and free for kids under 10. Tickets are available at gorgeorchestra.org. There are no low-price Oregon Trail/SNAP card tickets for this special performance.


For information about all CGOA events, visit gorgeorchestra.org, or check out gorgeorchestra on Facebook and Instagram.

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